Ghana: Between Devil And Deep Blue Sea

Often times one finds it difficult to practically demonstrate the cliché of one being “between the devil and the deep blue sea”. Most often, it is more a situation of personal mental anguish, indecision as to in which direction to go.

But The Chronicle thinks that the reckless deficit budgeting of the last quarter of 2012 and its dire consequences have brought the President John Dramani Mahama administration and indeed most Ghanaians face to face with the acute dilemma implied by the popular saying.

The pricing of petroleum products in the country is currently governed by the “automatic adjustment formula”, put in place following the near-collapse of a state commercial bank, whose funding of state oil import bills was treated by government as the bank’s donation to charity.

Under the AAF, the prices of petroleum products are promptly adjusted up or down in consonance with the rise and fall of oil price on the international market. Despite national hue and cry, the NDC government has gallantly been so adjusting in recent months, until last Monday, June 16, when for whatever reason the National Petroleum Authority declined to crack the whip.

Now the chamber of Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BDCs), who claim government owes them GH¢1.5 billion in unpaid subsidies due them, have risen up in arms, condemned the government inaction and called for the “full implementation of automatic adjustment without interference”.

The BDC’s anger stems from their claim that government’s Monday benevolence would add another GH¢40 million on top of their unpaid allowances, which reportedly is creating problems for them with their bankers who are said to be withholding further credits to them.

“As we speak, we have less than two weeks stock. In my estimation, that should be about 1.3 weeks. When you are at that level, there is one thing in your face – queues and shortages.“It is not because BDCs do not want to import, but because those who fund BDCs find our transactions so risky because subsidies are sucking a lot of liquidity from the industry”, BDC Chairman Senyo Hosi told Citi FM, Accra.

What does the government do now? Stop giving some badly-needed relief to suffering Ghanaians or ignore the request of BDCs to adhere strictly to AAF and have the country paralysed by acute fuel shortages?

The Chronicle appreciates the dilemma of both the government and the BDCs. But with the worsening insurgency in Iraq, a major oil producer, prices will be escalating and it would not be a bad idea for the BDCs to occasionally cut the government some slack in the interest of the people.

And what has happened to the Tema Oil Refinery Levy? Has it been stopped or is the government still misappropriating it for other purposes?

As government the money to ferry football supporters to the Brazil World Cup, it should equally find the means to pay the BDCs their due, and as well fund the Judiciary, some of whose judges are said to be competing with reptiles, from their bushy environments, for space.

Ultimately, The Chronicle hopes that President Mahama and the ruling NDC will realise or have already realised that being myopic and going on a spending binge to win an election is injurious to the spender himself and in a democracy could jeopardise his future prospects.

The lesson will sink in deeper should the birds eventually come home to roost, any time soon!